We all have a notion of how things should be or look, and getting past our prejudices
is difficult. I used to teach an art course for grade schoolers, and would give them a
“serious” task: draw a rabbit. They would work hard at attempts to make a detailed
representation of a rabbit, with uneven success, and with not much enjoyment or
inspiration. The pictures were based on their idea of what a rabbit literally looks
like. Then I would tell them to take out a new piece of paper, and draw a horrible
rabbit, a terrible picture of a rabbit, the worst picture they could draw. And do it
fast, so fast they could not think about it. Twenty years later, I still have some of the
inspired and creative drawings these students did. The assignment to do a very bad
drawing gave them permission to ignore all their preconceived notions what a
rabbit should look like, and freed them to break all the rules, to risk and be truly
creative. And most of the children had such fun doing these drawings.
Prejudices, of which we are usually unconscious, are often the greatest barriers to
creativity in the arts and in the sciences. In the arts we have notions of what is
beautiful, of what is good art. In the sciences, we have notions of the way the world
works and what other have found. Paul Dirac, one of the great physicists of the 20 th
century said that prejudice about how the world works, usually unconscious, was

the greatest barrier to insight and new visions in science. Going past our prejudices
takes courage and insight.

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